A plan by a Wichita Democrat to introduce a bill that calls for the minimum wage in Kansas go up to $10.25 by 2017 has been met with mixed reactions from some business managers in Garden City.
The proposed Kansas Working Families Pay Raise Act, sponsored by Rep. Jim Ward, if passed into law, would increase the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour on July 1 of this year before rising again by $1 each year through 2017.
Kansas last raised its minimum wage in 2009. A hike in the minimum wage over the next three years would put more money in workers’ pockets, but it could also present challenges for employers.
Mike Ward, owner of Ward’s Garden Center, took exception to what he described as a politician who does not fully understand the implications of such a law.
“I would be for an increase of $1, but not for any long term forecast, especially by somebody who is not doing the payroll,” Ward said. “I think the wage needs to be raised, but I don’t think something like this needs to be initiated into law. Who knows what in three years the economy will be like?”
Ward said that every Friday, he has a payroll of about $15,000.
“I want my employees to do the best they can on what I pay them, but I don’t want somebody to dictate to me that in three years, I must go up to $10 when the economy could be down to $2,” he said.
Ward added that he does not hire anybody at minimum wage because he thinks it is too low.
“I don’t know the situation that other employers have, what struggles they are having, but people that work for you have got to make a decent living, too,” Ward said. “I am all for raising the minimum wage, but not to 10 bucks.”
Rayna Novack, Stage’s store manager, said it is going to come to a point where people are not going to have just one job, they are going to have multiple jobs because they won’t be able to make ends meet since they won’t be getting the benefits they need due to changes like the proposed law.
“Many employers are not ready to pay insurance for their employees,” Novack said. “I don’t think my employees would be let go if the minimum wage was raised like that, but I think their hours would be cut more.”
For Novack, the proposal is not a winning situation.
“I ran into the point where my part-time people can make more from the government if they stay home than actually work. That’s how sad it is; it is really pathetic,” she said. “I have single moms who get paid to work, but they have to pay for day care and the government says they have to work certain hours. The money they make on their job goes towards day care, so they would be better off staying home.”
Ernie Ortiz, owner of El Conquistador Mexican restaurant, said, “It is going to affect a lot of businesses. When it comes to restaurants, it will affect the cooks and the staff management.”
Ortiz acknowledged that such a law will not affect waitstaff “because their minimum wage is only 2.19 an hour and that will not be affected.”
He said sometimes servers can make more than the minimum wage per hour — up to $15 or $20 an hour.
“Shifting the cost to the customer after any such change is something I would have to look into with my bookkeeper,” Ortiz said. “I’d also have to figure out what the cost would be to the business. Food cost is going up anyway; beef, pork, vegetables like avocados, tomatoes and onions are all going up.”
Ortiz said any change would affect the menu at the restaurant, but he also would have to drop employees.
“We wouldn’t be able to hire many,” he said. “Right now, I have a total of 16 employees. I’d have to drop one or two, though I wouldn’t do it right away because the wage will go up year by year, not all at once.”
Thang Cao, manager at Cao Thanh, a Vietnamese restaurant, said such a law would affect everybody — the employer and the employees.
“If we could improve the economy and lower the cost of living, that would be a lot better than raising the minimum wage. This will instead force businesses to raise their prices,” he said.
There are some businesses where a hike in the minimum wage could be to their advantage.
Tara Trimble, manager at Hastings Entertainment, said it would help the organization keep people if the wage was higher.
“Smaller businesses like mom and pop shops would probably be at a disadvantage, but Hastings is not small,” Trimble said. “Bigger businesses like corporations have enough money to be able to do that. I spend a lot of my check in the store; if I make more, I will be able to spend more. It is a good thing, especially since it costs so much to live in Garden City.”
Trimble explained that many of Hastings’ employees are target workers.
“Big stores are really like that; we rely on college students. Once in a while, someone big like Hobby Lobby might come and pay, say $15 an hour. It makes it a little difficult. People don’t want to work here if they can be paid better somewhere else.”
She added that if the law is set and corporations have to pay the $10.25, more people will want to work at Hastings.
“Corporations are always going to want to pay the minimum amount,” she said. “Even if it was at a decent rate like $10 an hour, we are not going to have any complaints about working here.”